A recent 25 minute interview on Cultivating the Transformative Ground of Being with my Pacific Integral partner, Geoff Fitch, and our friend Joel Monk at Coaches Rising.
On May 11, Joel Monk and Laurens van Aarle of Coaches Rising in the Netherlands conducted an interview with my partners, Geoff Fitch, Terri O’Fallon, and me. It’s a wonderful interview that speaks of the latest research on late stages of adult development, facilitating state and stage awareness in our GTC cohorts at Pacific Integral, the causal floor in which emptiness and the witness arise, what it takes to stabilize these states into ordinary walking around, waking consciousness; and sourcing new futures together through our collective intelligence. Based on research and our own experience over the last 7 years + with later stage individuals in our Integral Leadership Programs, many of the ideas and information offered in this interview are pointing toward new possible futures for humanity. Thanks to Joel and Laurens. We hope you enjoy it.
There were about 30 of us out at Harmony Hill last week in our GTC program. Spring flowers and snowy mountains popped in the warm sun, surrounded by blue sky and water… and dollops of old growth forest with nesting eagles. Inside the cedar and glass buildings, we open minds, reveal souls, and take down the false, subtle walls – to fluid, permeable, shared consciousness. Throughout this program, “I” dissolves repeatedly until eventually, any search for a definitive or particular “I” is futile. Yes, we can find an “I” in each person, can find a particular set of gifts, talents and resources which make each person useful and needed and valuable in the world. And yet, what seems to be revealing itself ever more clearly is an experience of many aspects of one, being itself, through many, being themselves as the one. Each being is gorgeous, shimmering with strengths, weaknesses, perspectives from and about being human. No two are alike. And yet each is another of the same self. Each ultimately can see him or herself in the other and the other in her self….til eventually, the question remains: Where is the separation? At the same time, of course, the definition I make between myself and you is what allows human relationship, human health, and human responsibility for universal care. So there is a particular self, and it is the self that experiences attachment and abandonment, love and loss, vulnerability and tenderness, pain, sorrow and joy – those qualities that the angels and god long for – and so here we are.
As a “facilitator” of these experiences, I find myself less and less important, find myself in reverence to some mystery so far beyond “I” that i cannot tell you who the Facilitator is. I can say that the experience gives me chills right now as I write this. When I am in the room, experiencing aspects of the unfolding magical presence, I am transformed and in awe. I am no longer “me”. I am That, unfolding as various aspects, perspectives, inclinations and impulses through the many…and there ceases to be one I, even though I hold myself responsible for the experience. It seems that others also feel as if we all are part of one organism, seeing, being and loving itself as its Self. The Beauty that prevails, never fails to find its way to the surface, no matter what truths are present or emergent. The shadows and light dance as one another, depending on the way one is viewing the scene. From one angle a thing is shadow; from another it is light. And simultaneously we are at once, all of the shadows and all of the light. From these ways of seeing, all is integrated into This. The horror, pain, and suffering, the longing, the conflict, the deceit, the honesty, grace, generosity, vulnerability, tenderness, humor, the tremoring, the stillness and on and on and on…all aspects of the Human Condition. As father Thomas Keating asks in his book of the same name: Where Am I? and Who Am I? Eventually the answer to these questions is futile. For I/We find the same Self in and as everyone and every thing, transformed and transforming. Never the same, yet beautiful in a constant stillness, shimmering.
We all have a lifetime of experience that makes us who we are. In fact, I am not me without you being you. And none of us are we without those who fed their lives into ours over time. So, I can say I started my spiritual practice at age 25, or at age 3 or before the beginning of time. But for me when it comes down to it, everything is dissolved back into an ever-present, space-less and timeless benevolent presence/love. And that is who I am. And that is who you are.
I am born into a moment both timeless and timebound, both already formed and empty. My first breath of life is released as a scream. Everywhere there is structure and form, the accumulation and culmination of billions of years of evolution, the beginning of now, always, already existing in and as our minds which are never separate from the mind of god, the creator and artist from and through which all of ‘this’ expresses.
My cells live inside of me, and I live inside my cells, awake, intelligent, receptive, interactive, creative. Smaller still, I live in the atoms inside the cells. I am energy so fine I cannot be measured or possessed; and even more invisible than energy, I am spirit, divine consciousness, supreme silence, the infinite, everpresent, timeless mystery upon which all is written, from which all is created, through which all is drawn.
Mooji says, “As you begin to understand your true nature the sense of being merely an objective being becomes more thin, more light… intuitively and spontaneously one begins to recognize ones self as timeless…it’s coming from inside your own self….”
Deepak Chopra says, “emptiness is the womb of creation.” Pure potential lives inside of every moment, prior to thought and prior to action, through the ineffable mystery itself. We look around and feel hopeless at structures and systems on our planet….much of it created out of our own minds. We’ve created our economic and political systems, our technology, our belief systems, societal structures and our own personal and cultural stories. Our minds have created these stories and systems and through our own awakening we can create something new, now…in this timeless, spacious moment, always.
Mooji says, “Such is the nature of concepts believed in; a thought without belief has no power. A thought with belief can start a war. This is your power, what you’re supplying energy to, what you’re supplying belief to, what you’re giving approval to – maybe not consciously, maybe not deliberately – but somehow you are cooperating. And now you’re seeing, “i have an option.” Mind will not only lose its power, it will begin to cooperate with the pure being.”
And what is the “pure being?” It is that which is infinitely spacious inside, outside and through all of creation; it is pure unmanifest potential. With this way of seeing, we see through the life that we have created collectively into the vastness of the space through which new ways of being, seeing, living and relating are potentially emerging right now, in every spacious atom, and imaginal cell. We surrender our small selves to pure being and it shows us how to live and love. The scriptures of all the worlds religions tell us, “What you meditate on, is what you become.”
What will we focus on? What will we become? What will we create from, with and through the spacious unmanifest potential available to us in our next breath?
Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts: and the scenery is falling apart.- Rilke
We humans, and likely other sentient beings, have the capacity to see and feel and intuit large swaths of mulitiple dimensions, from the sorrow that flows like rivers through the hearts of humanity and sentience, to the bliss of perceiving light permeating through physical reality, to joyous love so big that nothing could contain it, to misery, fear, poverty, abuse, mental illness, the irony of evil masked as religious dogma, emanations in subtle realms, timelessness, the experience of emptiness and fullness as one, and a point prior to the everpresent potentiality of creation. Mystical and transcendental realms astound and enlighten. They can bring both clarity and a new kind of confusion, both ecstasy in the face of the divine and intimacy with the burning fire of purification.
And still, no matter who we are, no matter what country we live in, no matter what color our beautiful skin or eyes, no matter what our beliefs are, we have in common our human heart. Regardless of our circumstances or experience, no matter how rich or poor, well-respected, accomplished, spiritually awake, intelligent or healthy, we remain connected through our shared human vulnerabilities and limitations. At this time as through all time, many people are suffering, terrified, lonely, or coping with great loss. We are confused and angry. Our minds cannot keep up with the breakdown in thousands of obsolete systems, which keep each other in place through antiquated belief systems and also easily can disrupt one another like the fragile threads in a spider’s web.
How do we cope with our own pain and suffering?
How do we cope with our humanness and the overwhelming knowledge that much of sentience suffers – especially when we are in the midst of our own private pain or suffering? How do we intuit and remain consciously aware of our limitations as humans while collaborating on the vision and intention of a healthier, more beautiful and more just future for all life? In the following several paragraphs I offer some simple exercises and perspectives which have helped both me and many I’ve worked with over the years. They are simple human practices which are available to everyone, but which often are overlooked or not enacted. Whether these are reminders, or new for you, may they contribute to the healing of our shared vulnerable and loving heart.
The Good, True and Beautiful - Benevolent practices to relieve suffering
Across many religious traditions, practitioners are invited to drop into the heart, to love, to serve. Dropping into the heart and living in and from a place of liberation, clarity, strength and openness is not easy. It happens in degrees and can take many forms. How can we live more consistently and more effortlessly in this way? Let’s start here.
- Drop your awareness or your attention into your own vulnerable, human heart, the area in the center of the chest. Gently breathe into and through this area, bringing even more consciousness to it. Likely you will notice a contraction or tension in your body, here, or perhaps nearby. Just become aware of what you notice. It could be tightness, pain, a physical sensation, a visual image or shape or an emotion. As you inhale allow the details of this sensation or image to come more into focus. As you exhale, allow the muscles in this area to relax and let go. Focus your attention here and feel what you feel as you inhale, let go as you exhale. Just relax into the sensation, image or emotion. Using your breath and your awareness, do this several times. And stay there for awhile. Can you stay present to this sensation and breathe into and through it without bypassing it? Try it.
- See if you can locate the felt sense inside yourself of your raw vulnerability and innocence, the you who does his or her best, the you who wants to love and be loved, the one who hurts, who is anxious or afraid, maybe even a version of you as a child. Just stay there and try to feel that part of yourself.
- Now, imagine bringing tenderness, appreciation, compassion and care to this part of yourself. Imagine breathing tenderness, love, and acceptance through this part of yourself. Can you love what is here? Can you be present with this part of yourself? Listen to this one? Feel the hurt or the fear? Make room for whatever is there? Say to yourself and feel in your body, “it’s okay to feel this way.”
Through embodied awareness practice and conscious breathing, it is possible to release unconscious assumptions, chronic muscle contraction, and habitual attitudes and behaviors which cause suffering in yourself and others. Relaxing into your own vulnerability and making room for it is compassionate, loving and kind. This self compassion is soothing and makes room for a felt sense of benevolence to enter. With intention, attention and practice, the defenses come down, anxiety is released, repressed emotion is freed, and life energy can begin to flow.
This loving kindness toward yourself is the same loving kindness that can be directed towards others in service to the same one who created us, who lives in and through all of us. Love feels good. Whether eros or agape, going toward the divine or the divine coming back down into ourselves as love for one another, Love just feels good. Ironically the more we love, the more we feel love. Always the caveat is that love also consists of the ability to say no to that which is not loving.
So, in addition to loving your vulnerable human self, one’s own suffering can be relieved or abated through loving others in service to the divine self that lives inside of you and everyone. Who can you help? Who genuinely wants help and will use it well? What is it that they are asking for or needing in this moment? No matter how small or large, an act of service to someone in need can open the heart even just for a moment. These acts of loving kindness, of compassionate action, of loving service, create inroads for deeper and greater benevolence to enter your being. In helping someone else from a genuine-hearted authentic spontaneity within yourself, you are serving the Beloved. You Love. You are Love.
Looking all around you, what do you see? How did it arrive here? I don’t mean how was it manufactured or how was it delivered. Where does it come from? What is it made of? What is its essence? What is anything made of? Extending your awareness out beyond your physical surroundings, to the happenings in the world, what comes to your heart and mind? Bring your attention to both the chaos, the conflict, the pain and to the order, the harmony and the joy. These qualities have existed throughout time. How did all of this come to be? What holds it together? What keeps it going? What ultimately controls (creates, sustains and destroys) our existence? Letting go into this Mystery and just standing in awe that anything and everything we experience seems to exist at all, can put us in touch with a sense of gratitude and appreciation even in the midst of suffering, our own and others.
What is it like to live from all of these perspectives, the beautiful, the good and the true, simultaneously? Can we as humans be in touch with our own interior vulnerabilities, needs and tenderness, while at the same time serving the same vulnerability in others, and remaining aware of the co-arising nature of all of creation as it presently twists, turns and evolves in ourselves, throughout our planet and throughout space and time? Being in touch with the self, we can clear away debris that keeps us stuck in limiting beliefs which keep our world self-centered and small. Ironically, self-awareness brings more compassion to the self, which allows greater compassion for others and more room to see things with greater objectivity. Learning how to open our hearts and minds to all of these simultaneously, we release a fixation on our own small world and open the possibility of a transformed future for this thing we call life on earth.
‘To lead profound change is to shift the inner place from which a system operates. This can be done only collaboratively.” Otto Scharmer
What does it mean to “shift the inner place from which a system operates?” And how? One meaning is: at will shiftting into open mind, open heart, open will…opening into a state of emptiness through which the Source/Mystery/Eternal Wisdom create avenues to resolution and deep truth that beneift all into the future. For those of us willing to access this state of presence as a collective, then, we can begin collaboratively surrendering the internal and external systems we hold dear, while paying attention to what is needed, what is desired and what is emergent in us, in our relationships with all of life and in the structures and systems of our world. Through this deep and broad access to consciousness, new paradigms can take shape and come into being from the causal to the subtle to the physical. These capacities can be taught and learned. From this DEEP place of shifting consciousness, the whole “world” reorganizes and multiple interlocking systems align naturally.
None of this can be done primarily at the surface level of form (although form is inseparable from the formless – and yet it is not). In order to access this state of pure creative potential, we must drop into a state of deep communion with pure illumined spirit or undifferentiated awareness, far below, individual ego, the polarities of relationships, cultural and political differences, and even ideas of what we call manifest reality. Many people are learning to do this. Perhaps when Einstein said we only use 10% of our brain, he was referring to this capacity to access collective and universal intelligence which is available to virtually everyone of us. The more of us who develop these capacities within, the more effective as a collaborative, creative collective we will be in allowing the dismantling of the obsolete and the emergence of continually ever changing/responsive elements of systems which can be let go of and replaced as necessary. After all, change never ceases.
Those of us who understand this concept, who sense it energetically and physically as a felt reality, those who are drawn to this vision – are coming together and we are already affecting change….in the environment, economics, politics, business, education, the arts, psychology, science, law, international relations and even in religions across the world. Dropping as a collective into this profound state will allow all of us to access the deeper universal principles upon which all temporary, obsolete and not yet discovered systems emerge. Learning to live from this place of consciousness will allow us to remain responsive to the accelerating future that is arising in this and every moment.